Coded gray.

Monday 17 March 2003

Screenshot Morrowind

Pic of the day: Once you are dead, I suppose it matters less whether you were killed by bombs, bullets or bacteria. (Creepy screenshot from Morrowind. However, reality is much worse. At least some places.)

Wars and SARS

In an irony of fate, just as George W Bush is ready to launch one of the greatest wars since World War II, he may be about to be dwarfed by nature. It is not a certain thing, but the potential is there. His comfort could be that in the long run, acts of God are less likely to end up in the history books than acts of men. (I originally wrote "humans" here, but changed it.)

The first World War, which was a horrible thing in itself, was accompanied by the Spanish flu which killed about 20 million people. There seems to be no causal connection between them. The flu, if anything, seemed to prefer young and healthy people. Anyway, it is the war that is remembered now. So perhaps Bush will have his 15 centuries of fame. But unless some idiot starts to fire off nukes, the Iraq war is likely to be a fairly local incident. Microbes have much less respect for borders than even soldiers.


For the last several months, I have thought that the war was scheduled to begin on March 19, no matter what Iraq did or didn't do (except complete surrender). I can't remember where I got that date from, but it must have been widely circulated since I don't read any secret stuff. I suppose the attack may have been delayed when Turkey declined the American brib^W offer of investment in civilian and military infrastructure as part of a bilateral agreement on common defense operations. But more likely than not, the actual military experts had contingency plans in place long before this, so it's unlikely to make much of a difference. Certainly the diplomatic chicken dance of the last few weeks has had no influence at all on the plans. There were never any open spaces for French, Russian or German troops anyway.

I think I have already said most of what I meant to say about this. I believe Bush acts, on behalf of the American people (though they may not necessarily agree with him) out of emotion rather than rationally. Saddam Hussein's evil and oppressive regime was opposed to the Islamic fundamentalists that had declared war on the USA through their treacherous attack on civilian targets in 2001.

The USA is lashing out, emotionally wounded, and the president is probably blaming himself for being caught off guard. Well, news for you: Being caught off guard is life. It will happen again, but of course it will happen in a new way next time. Perhaps a new and different terrorist act. Perhaps an asteroid strike, an earthquake ... or a lethal pandemic.


The onslaught of another serious disease was certainly unexpected, and if this SARS thing gets out of hand there will no doubt be much blame going around. If the hospitals go full then the death toll will be much higher than now ... not the end of mankind, but losing 10% or even 5% of the population would be a terrible blow. Statesmen would die, rock stars, athletes ... public symbols. But also friends of you, relatives ... and possibly yourself. You would not feel safe anywhere. It would be a bit like a god declaring war on the world ... you would never know where the next bomb would hit, or how much would be left when it was over.

How petty are our wars, even when they otherwise seem necessary ... we are all like fleas living in the fur of some small animal in a dangerous forest, blissfully unaware that the animal may shake us off or itself be eaten any day. We live against the odds ... and still we cannot let each other live. And I'm not particularly thinking of Bush Jr here. Throughout history it has been like this. It is an irony and a tragedy.

In the comic book series "Watchmen", one of the smartest men on Earth engineers a catastrophe to happen, one of truly epic proportions, in order to make the USA and the USSR stop their senseless arms race and unite against a larger threat. But even then there is a risk of failure. And rightly so. I am afraid it would not work too well. But I hope we shall never know. The next couple weeks will probably tell.

Yesterday <-- This month --> Tomorrow?
One year ago: City of Heroes RPG
Two years ago: Mysticism
Three years ago: Sloth, greed and lust?
Four years ago: Fog

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